October 11, 2012

2012: Highlight # 6

Central to Gujarat's enviable economic growth is the transformation of the erstwhile Gujarat Electricity Board into a model public utility. Shah et. al. unpack the change process…

Organizational Reform in Gujarat's Electricity Utility

Lessons for revitalizing a bureaucratic service delivery agency

Tushaar Shah, Madhavi Mehta, Gopi Sankar and Shankar Mondal

For years until 2000, Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) was a drag on the government’s finances and on the state’s development, roundly hated by consumers and abhorred by farmers. A decade later, the same agency metamorphosed into a model public utility, efficient, agile and profitable, winning global awards for innovation and customer service. It also became the pump-primer of Gujarat’s economic success - in industry, commerce and agriculture. Once perennially power-deficit, Gujarat built up embarrassing power surplus. Once abhorred by consumers, Gujarat’s power utility is delighting its customers. Bureaucratic sloth has given way to technical innovation, customer orientation and a vibrant business ethic.

How did this transformation occur? And why its transformational processes can’t be emulated to revitalize moribund agencies managing public irrigation systems in Gujarat and elsewhere? Irrigation systems are also utilities. They serve millions of customers. Physical characteristics of the two are similar too: a reservoir is like a power plant; canals are like transmission lines; water distribution below the outlet is much like power distribution below a sub-station. Revitalizing the management of irrigation systems can do to the state’s water economy what the new-look power utilities have done to Gujarat’s power economy.

This Highlight explores the lessons of the transformation in Gujarat’s power sector and their relevance for revitalization of public irrigation systems.

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